Threshhold Shmeshhold: the training zone confusion of a middle-aged woman

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As I have decided to grab life by the hair and give it a good hard yank this year, my husband, who has started to refer to himself as Beloved Husband (BH from now on then, snigger) ‘suggested’ that if I wanted to get any real effects out of training so that I’m not just lumbering about or flollopping along on my bike ( I maintain that I have never, ever flollopped except maybe on the sofa), I ‘might like’ to work out my Maximum Heart Rate and calculate my training zones. By using the right zone for the right training session I can train more methodically and improve not only my endurance but also my speed and therefore, my overall performance. Yeah, right.

Now, being fully frank, I normally do just lumber along. My argument being that I’m actually lapping anyone sitting on a couch and anyway, I’m completely rubbish, so why would I bother with anything more sophisticated than just ‘getting out there’ as a training method. I have regularly commented that I could take any amount of EPO to improve my performance without having to overdo this training nonsense and I’d never be tested since I’d only come half way up any finish list anyway. I’ve taken Evening Primrose Oil by the way and it doesn’t work.

BH rolled his eyes, signed me up for Strava and printed me out an MHR test from some geeky cycling site he pores over avidly as if it were porn – I think it is his porn judging by the leering grin he has when he reads it, weirdo.

Anyway, back to the test. Yesterday, I set up the turbo trainer and jumped on my bike and did the following, which is designed to find my maximum heart rate (before black out of course). You need to have a smart watch with a heart rate monitor to do this test. The usual sports watches will do, or I think you could even use an Apple Sports watch.

The Test:

10 Minutes easy warm up

10 minutes hard effort at a consistent time trial effort with the last minute being increased effort and last 30 seconds being sprint effort.

After that you cool down with 10 minutes easy cycling rather than stop.

Once you know what your maximum heart rate is, you can work out your training zones. Just for extra confusion, I should point out that this test is for the cycling MHR, the MHR for running is different and has to be done when running and you will find that it is higher. There is a traditional and easy way to work out your MHR, which is to use 220 minus your age, however, its generally accepted to be quite a clumsy calculation. So then you move to these ridiculous tests to establish how hard you can push yourself before you collapse in convulsions.

The Training Zones are:

Zone 1 – Easy/Recovery Zone: Heart rate should be between 65-70% MHR – perceived effort rating 3-4 – easy to talk

Zone 2 – Aerobic Zone: Heart rate should be 75-85% MHR – perceived effort rating 5-6 still able to talk sentences.

Zone 3 – Threshold Zone: Heart rate should be 88-92% MHR – perceived effort rating 7-8 maybe throw out the odd word.

Zone 4 – VO2 Max Zone: Heart rate should be 95-100% MHR – perceived effort rating 9+ talking not an option!

Depending upon the distance or race type you are aiming for, it may be that you need to spend more time in your aerobic zone; for example for marathon races, cycling sportives or other endurance events which are longer and overall slower, interspersing those sessions with sessions in the threshold zone to help you develop your overall speed. Whereas, if you are training for shorter distances that are generally at a faster pace such as 5k races or cycling TT races you may well spend more time in the threshold and even VO2 Max zones. In all cases, after a heavy session you will likely change to the recovery zone the next time which will allow you to exercise and ‘flush out’ muscle toxins such as lactic acid and recover.

So there you have it, or not in my case. I have to say that when I run I feel like I’m in the VO2 max zone all the time. I have no clue how on earth I’m expected to get into the lower zones when I’m running. Walk? Use roller skates?

Although I was a sprinter at school, being Generation X with umpteen years of horse riding and other sports behind me, I’m in that level of folks who are weekend warriors and mass participants of sports to achieve and do something for themselves. For me, because I’m on the slower side, it almost feels ‘wrong’ for me to train more like BH and some of my friends who really are going to challenge for age group placings and medals and I have pushed myself backwards and talked myself out of methodical and developmental training for events because of that – no matter whether its swimming or cycling. I’m ashamed of how truly awful I am.

I met Mark Foster a couple of weekends ago at the Triathlon Show at Excel. I asked him for tips to reinvigorate a sickened mojo. He took a couple of minutes to think about it. His view is that an individual should never, ever think lowly of themselves. No, we aren’t all going to be an Ian Thorpe, or Chrissie Wellington, or Becky Adlington. BUT you can be the best version of you. Thats who you should aim to be. Your best You – the Hero of Your Own Life ( ooh, where did I hear that before???). I’d forgotten that, wallowing in my lack of confidence lately.

Anyway, my MHR results. After doing the 10 minutes of what I had perceived as ‘Really Going For It’ my MHR turned out to be 165 bpm. Then I went out and did a little 2 mile run loop. I thought I was going to die. I didn’t look at my watch because I didn’t want to see that I was running at roughly the same pace as an asthmatic chicken. I came back and copied BH by instantly checking my stats and see them in glorious technicolour on my new Strava page. It was my fastest 2 mile run – eh? AND my MHR was 185 bpm! BH studied my results. He said I should warm up for Park Run in future and that my usual walk from the car park to the start, moaning because I don’t want to take my jacket off and checking my laces doesn’t count as a warm up. It was apparently clear that I had not, after all, been ‘really going for it’ on the bike as it would be unusual to have such a difference on run and bike MHR.  So, now, I have to get back on the bike and do it all again. And this time I have to TRY….

Rebel, Rebel – The art of yoga rebellion

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Do you ever wish you could press a pause button and stop everything from happening around you so that you can go quietly into a melt down and come out the other side? My life has been a complete whirr for the last year. Organising a wedding, dealing with family health issues and balancing life with a job has made me super grouchy. Not having time to myself makes me a deeply unpleasant person to be around. I’m feeling very Ordinary…

I feel a lot less Ordinary when I get out and about, do some exercise, and generally get moving. I feel just like this quote:

“If it doesn’t sweat, jiggle, or pant, it’s not alive.”

I haven’t sweated, jiggled or panted properly for a few months and I actually don’t feel alive – at all. As usual I’ve entered some events this year and rather than do the usual DNS due to PPP and allowing everyone else’s priorities to overtake my own, with the end result of feeling like an abject failure, I’ve decided that I’m going to put myself first.

I recently discovered a website called Asana Rebel (http://www.asanarebel.com). I love yoga and have come to have a huge respect for it. Some years ago I went on a wonderful spa break in Morocco and learned yoga. I had never done it properly before and had poked fun at the ‘yoga types’. I had always thought it was for people who have only a passing acquaintance with personal hygiene, hairdressers and dentists and who exist solely on a diet of stinging nettles, tofu and lentils. Previous attempts at attending yoga classes at the gym with my friends ended up in uncontrolled sniggering, tourettes moments and having to leave the class early. On Retreat, where I actually paid attention, Oh, how wrong I was! The other women were normal like me and trying it out for many of the same reasons that I was. I found that it did amazing things. Not just for my body, but for my soul, my emotions and my brain. It actually gave me a place to breathe, take time out and gave me an inner resilience to take with me for the day. I even managed to continue my yoga practice everyday for a whole year. Then, one day, I simply stopped. Fast forward umpty tump years where I am struggling to get some inner peace and personal space.

“The traditional approach to an unknown risk is avoidance.”

As much as I can truly despise Facebook sometimes, I saw a link to Asana Rebel (http://www.asanarebel.com).  I usually take ages to make a decision – especially if I’m going to commit to something. If its a commitment, I might circle it a few times like a hunter stalking its prey, carefully considering the costs of an attack and whether its actually worth risking a bloody nose. If its a purchase, I might visit the targeted shop several times to look at, feel and prod the item I wish to purchase. Probably, I give the shop assistants an uneasy feeling as they see that creepy lady again, stroking their products. I think that what I’m saying is that I usually procrastinate and sit on the fence until it becomes way too uncomfortable and then I make a rash decision forgetting any of the sensible considerations I’ve already made. Anyway, in this case, Asana Rebel came along just at point when I needed it and I didn’t even blink before pressing the ‘Get the App’ button and enrolled for the New Year class.

You can sign up for lots of different courses, they have Fatburner courses, Strength Courses, Core courses, Inner peace and wellbeing – all sorts and you can just pick the one that suits you. You adjust the App to the number of times each week you think you can manage and press GO. The classes are loaded for your plan and you just go ahead and take them. You can’t jump about though, each class loads and can only be taken once the previous class has been taken. The App records all of your sessions and you can record how you feel each time using free text boxes and emojis. There are also Tips from the Coach each week. The instruction itself is very clear. The video has an amazing Yogi demonstrating each move and doing the session with you – usually she will demonstrate moves before you do them yourself. The instructor has a lovely clear and calm voice that is easy to follow as you go through each pose. Now, there are loads of these types of Apps and Websites out there and we have to find the one we like and suits us if we’re going to stick with anything. I really like this site. SO much so that I’ve signed up for the 8 week Fatburner I series doing three sessions each week. Its not your ‘traditional’ yoga, so be warned. You won’t start each session with sun salutations. Thats not what this team is about. Its about making yoga relevant and effective for you.

I’m hooked. I’m three sessions into the Fatburner and have the whole of March and April to go. Its certainly not for the faint hearted and the poses so far really target strength as well. I can’t remember the last time I worked my triceps muscles properly, but my goodness, the old bingo wings are getting a good working over now!

Together with doing other aerobic exercise and chucking about some kettle bells combined with eating simply, not only am I looking forwards to seeing how this course can help me achieve some positive physical changes but also to how I will feel inside at the end of this journey. I’m a Yoga Rebel!